High Tech vs Frugal Innovation: Can Africa Leapfrog the Innovation Gap?

Prof Josef Gochermann
Mr Francois Denner
Mr Tilson Manyoni
Ms Gabisile Buiswa Gamede
Prof Oliver Damm

Mr Francois Denner

Francois is the Owner and Director of The Enceladus Group. His 25 year professional career has been shaped in terms of Industrial Competitiveness and Industrial Development issues, and which ranges from aspects of industrial policy, industrial competitiveness strategy, technology transfer and the domain of technical infrastructure (standardization, quality assurance, accreditation and metrology).


Themes central to his career include:

  • Creation of industrial capabilities in developing countries as necessary foundation for economic development
  • The catalytic effect of high-value and advanced manufacturing industries, to unlock growth


During his career he has held various positions, including:

  • Chief Director for Advanced Manufacturing with the Department of Trade and Industry, South Africa with specific portfolio related to the development of the Advanced Manufacturing section of the South African Industrial Policy Framework and the Industrial Policy Implementation Plan
  • Chief Technical Advisor to the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation
  • Space Programme Manager at the South African National Space Agency
  • Managing Director of the SCS Aerospace Group
  • Director of the National Aerospace Centre of Excellence, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
  • Manager of the National Metrology Laboratory of South Africa (now known as NMiSA)


The mission of The Enceladus Group is “Working for Tomorrow’s Tomorrow”, and in doing so he offers strategic advisory services to organisations in aspects of industrial competitiveness and also undertakes projects and initiatives aimed towards creating long term sustainable development.


Mr Tilson Manyoni

Tilson Manyoni is a Technology Entrepreneur, Board Member and Business professional who is currently the Managing Director and founder of VisionWave (Pty) Ltd and Director of Milestone-SA (Pty) Ltd,
Tilson is the head of Policy for the Black Business Council, responsible for formulating and advancing the policies of Black Business Council on economic transformation and inclusive growth, engagement with key stakeholders on policy matters and he is also responsible for driving 4th Industrial revolution and digitalization initiatives within the Black Business Council

A seasoned council member of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and member of the Executive Management Council (EXCO), he also leads the Planning and Resource committee (PRC) as a chairperson while serving on the Information Technology committee. Tilson is a founding board member of the University’s private holding company – TUT Enterprise (Pty) Ltd.
Tilson has over 15 years of practical experience in the field of Business Consulting, Manufacturing, and Technology with excellent knowledge of both Public and Private. He is an advisory board member for the South African Innovation Summit, which is annual events for technology entrepreneurs.

Tilson holds two Masters (MSc.) namely Major Programme Management (Mega-Projects ) from Saïd Business School – University of Oxford (United Kingdom) and Project Management (Information Technology) from University of Southern Queensland (Australia); Bachelor of Technology in Industrial Engineering and Post Graduate Diploma in Information Technology from University of Johannesburg (South Africa).

Ms Gabisile Buiswa Gamede

Prof Josef Gochermann

Prof Josef Gochermann (born 1960) is an associate professor for Marketing & Technology Management at the Osnabrueck University of Applied Sciences, Germany, and an extraordinary professor at the Department of Industrial Engineering at Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa. He got a PhD in Physics and Astronomy and has nearly 20 years’ experiences in high-technology and product development, including being named the Managing Director of several R&D institutions and technology based SMEs. His main topics of expertise are market and customer orientated product development, innovation management from early stages to market acceptance, SME entrepreneurship, and structure and management of technology-focused companies. He guided several German SMEs to South Africa and is involved in various skills development programs in South Africa.

Prof Oliver Damm

Dr Oliver Damm is a Professional Engineer and holds a PhD in Metallurgy and Materials Engineering as well as a Masters Degree in Engineering Management. He is an Associate Professor Extraordinary in the Industrial Engineering Department at the University of Stellenbosch.

He started his career at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa, where he held the position of manager of the National Product Development Centre until 2002.

Between 2002 and 2006 he was the Managing Director of the Southern Africa Stainless Steel Development Association (Sassda), which represents the organized stainless steel industry and is recognized as one of the leading industry development associations in the world.

Since 2007, Oliver is a partner in LHA Management Consultants (Pty) Ltd, a business consulting firm focusing on techno-economics, industry analysis and development, feasibility analysis and business strategy development, business performance benchmarking, and innovation and programme management. He has conducted numerous assignments for private and listed companies in the technology, manufacturing, construction, IT, technology, and financial sectors, as well as government departments and public sector institutions.

Oliver has significant experience in the development and implementation of major technology and industry development initiatives. He participated actively in the development and implementation of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy (AMTS) and the Advanced Metals Initiative (AMI) of the South African Department of Science and Technology.

Since April 2014, he is a Senior Advisor in South Africa for the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Germany, which is Europe’s largest applied research and technology development organisation.

In Africa terms like Industry 4.0 and Digitalization are broadly discussed, while Africa’s Research and Scientific competence has increased in some high-tech applications. On the other hand frugal innovation are emerging to meet the un-solved or underserved needs of people or organizations in constrained environments by developing adapted solutions using existing technologies.

These frugal solutions compete against the established linear and mostly static approach of enhancing the innovation competence step by step. Most skills development programs are based on the approach of first establishing competencies in the older technologies before moving on to the development of new innovations. With frugal innovation Africa is challenging this model and is leapfrogging technology development steps.

The panel discussion should discuss the following questions and help to find answers:

  • Can Africa leapfrog the innovation gap? Or must technology based economy pass through all technology development phases?
  • How can Africa fulfil the requirements of high-tech research and development and contemporaneously enhancing low level skills and competencies of broad sections of the population?
  • Can Africa do both, high-tech and frugal innovations?

The bipolar position, high-tech on the one side and frugal, adapted innovation on the other, should be discussed controversially to find African solutions.